Another thing that I’ve noticed about my little 1976 essay is its flirting suggestion that Leftist economic policy in the United States is, in some ways, more reminiscent of fascist economics than of socialism or communism. In the latter, the means of production are flatly seized by the state whereas, in the former, the state still controls them but tends to do so more indirectly, through regulation, etc.
They’re all ideologies of the Left, though.
When I was in high school, one of my teachers was a socialist. That’s not just my paranoid John-Birch-Society accusation. He really was a card-carrying member of some small socialist party or other. (I can’t remember its name at this distance in time.)
We normally got along reasonably well, but, one day, he was explaining the political spectrum from Left to Right. He did it in the conventional way, which has never made the slightest sense to me.
In order to help the students understand, he gave examples. Hitler, he said, was a person of the far Right. Conservatives like Barry Goldwater were also on the Right, but not nearly so far. If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he said, Jefferson, too, would probably find himself, with his deep devotion to liberty and small government, somewhere on the political Right.
So I raised my hand and asked whether he meant to say that Jefferson was a moderate Nazi. Or was Hitler just an extreme Jeffersonian democrat? If you took the notion of limited government to an extreme, did you end up with the Third Reich? If you begin to move leftward from Nazism and Fascism toward Jeffersonian limited government, how do you thereby get to Stalin? I confessed that I couldn’t quite see how this was all supposed to work.
I think the exchange lasted about two minutes. He became heated. I didn’t back down. He threw me out of class.
That cogent response notwithstanding, I still regard Marxist socialism and Fabian socialism and National Socialism as species of the same genus, and all of them as ideologies of the Left. If the standard political spectrum were properly constructed, anarchism would be on the far Right and totalitarianism (Communist, Nazi, Fascist, and etc.) on the far Left.
That this is obviously correct is shown by the fact that it puts me squarely in the middle, with just the right mix of order and liberty, state and freedom. All those who deviate from my view are plainly either too far to the Left or too far to the Right. And anything that validates my position is indisputably correct.
Since my high school days and my 1976 essay, a few others have developed this theme much further and in interestingly different ways — among them Jonah Goldberg, in his fascinating book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
There. That should really irritate some of my readers!
But I’m not quite done yet.
Many conservatives were exasperated during the 2008 American presidential campaign by the tendency of some Obama supporters to refer to him in quasi-messianic terms, as if he somehow transcended ordinary politics, the divide between Left and Right, and so forth. Liberals have often derided this as mere illusion. And, in fact, Mr. Obama’s less than transcendent performance in office has — thankfully — somewhat dimmed his radiance.
But now comes this:
To which, in my opinion, this little item is a wonderfully appropriate retort:
I’d better leave it at that, I suppose, and retreat into my bunker.